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The global perception that democracy is the best form of government has resulted in the acceptance and adoption of democratic regimes across the globe, particularly in hitherto dictatorial States of Africa. Thus, Nigeria returned to democracy on the 29th of May, 1999 with the hope of solving the governance and development predicaments that military rule had plunged the country into over the years. This is because leadership failure has been identified as the major problem bedeviling the Third World Countries, especially in countries where other forms of government, except democracy, are in place (Ake, 2001; 2008; Onyeonoru, 2004).

This political revolution was occasioned by the struggle, in many countries of Africa, and especially Nigeria, for democratic governance to be adopted and thereby jettisoning other forms of government which have been termed dictatorship. While most African countries, including Nigeria, have become officially, democratic States, there is yet to be seen, in practice, adherence to democratic standards, norms, values and expectations in these nations due to the manipulative activities of politicians, especially political elites and political entrepreneurs who engage or sponsor all kinds of youth exploitation in the quest for power. Having witnessed several elections at both State and National levels in the Fourth Republic, and seen elections being turned to war-like occasions, with losses in human lives and properties undermining the processes and outcomes of elections in Nigeria‘s Fourth Republic, one is moved to investigate the anti-democratic practices and the roles they play in the country‘s democracy. Thus, with the massive contentions and claims about democratic irregularities such as imposition of candidates, intimidationofopponentsandelectionfraudinNigeria‘sFourthRepublic,democracy seems to have all the features of dictatorship as experienced prior to 1999, except for the occurrence of elections that are highly and violently compromised and contentious.

Understandably, the idea of democracy has always brought about excitements and apprehensions wherever it exists as a system or form of government. Excitement because it is, expectedly, the solution to the tyranny, misrule and injustice of one (or minority) over another (the majority) in any society, and apprehensions because of the derisive maneuvering and conspicuous failings associated with the practice of democracy (Kirkpatrick, 1982; Ake, 1993, 1998; Fund, 2008; Signer, 2009; Urim, Imhonopi & Ojukwu, 2013). Thus, even though democracy should mean the form of government in which the people rule themselves either directly or through freely and fairly elected representatives, it has been rightly emphasized that ―not every nation that calls itself a democracy allows the people to rule‖ (Bessette and Pitney, 2012: 9) and democracy does not necessarily translate to good governance (Kirkpatrick, 1982; Onyeonoru, 2004). For instance, South Korea represents aparadigmofa―democracy‖that the people donotrule!Byname,the country is  called ―The  Democratic People‘s Republic of Korea‖, yet it  does not  allow for opposition political parties, free elections and democratic accountability, press freedom, rule of law and other democratic essentials that probably informed the formation of the name.

In Zimbabwe also, democracy has presented its people no choice of leadership except the ZANU-PF headed by President Robert Mugabe. The same experience is true in Cameroun where Paul Biya and his party, Cameroonian People’s Democratic Movement (RDPC), have remained the only option to rule the people. In some countries, especially in Africa, where democracy continue to suffer political blasphemy in the hands of its supposed ‗political priests‘, many citizens have had to sacrifice their lives in the fight to enforce true democracy in their countries. This is especially true for countries like Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, and many more that have engaged and continue to engage antidemocratic elements and forces to enthrone authentic democracy that survives and thrives on the principle of popular sovereignty (that political power derives from the people) and its expected dividends of securing the rights of the people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (which is the very purpose of government).

At the centre of the controversies surrounding the practice of democracy in most parts of the developing world is the practice of youth exploitation, which involves the illegal, manipulative and


unconstitutional method of undermining the rules, values and ideals of democracy thereby, circumventing the democratic process before, during and after elections to achieve or promote the political ambitions of a few, to the disadvantage of the majority (Schmitt, 1976; Muravchik, 1991;Ake, 1993; Larson1996).

In the Nigerian context, the highhandedness of politicians in power continues to raise serious concern about the country‘s nascent democracy. For example, during the Obasanjo regime (particularly in the second tenure between 2003 and 2007), his third term ambition was identified as the main reason for avoidable political crisis between the former president and his Vice, Atiku Abubakar, and other political actors that were opposed to his then seemingly unbridled ambition of elongating his tenure through a constitutional amendment (Ariye, Ogbomah, Ebipre ,& Eric, 2012; Adeniyi, 2011). This trend of abuse of power by the executive persists in the democratic experience of Nigeria until the period of this study.

From the foregoing compendia of facts, therefore, it becomes very necessary to investigate and understand how youth exploitation threatens democracy and all that it represents in the context of procedure and outcome. Furthermore, this research will provide the platform to investigate the nature of youth exploitation and understand the configuration and character of demagogues as different from the concept of godfatherism that existing researches seem to have exhaustively dissected as the problem of democracy and good governance in Nigeria. Very importantly also, the role of youth exploitation, how youth exploitation manifests and the implications of youth exploitation on Nigeria‘s democracy will be investigated.

The outcome of a scientific investigation and sociological analysis of youth exploitation in Nigeria‘s democracy will present much more comprehensive facts on youth exploitation and demagogues and how the highly sophisticated network of demagogues frustrate the country‘s quest for a truly free and democratic state where popular sovereignty and the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances in government will be visible realities of democratic practices.



Failure to conduct free, fair and credible elections, which is a cardinal factor in democratic system, can undermine the essence of democracy as the best form of government where the power to choose leaders is vested in the people. Democracy empowers the people to choose leaders on the basis of freedom of choice and credible elections, but political leaders and institutions of State are requiring, through coercion and election fraud, that the people have little or no choice on who leads them. This situation has made the promise of democracy unrealizable in Nigeria‘s Fourth Republic. Fund (2008) recommends that country-specific studies be undertaken to identify the challenges that confront democracies across the world, as every democratic regime has its peculiar challenges that creates anxieties and frustrations with democratic practice.

Despite the seemingly remarkable progress of democracy in Nigeria, its survival, deepening and dividends are threatened by pervasive electoral fraud the overbearing influence and manipulative political behaviour of demagogues which have made misrule, abuse of power, corruption, uncertainty, poverty and unemployment undeniable features of the country‘s democracy (Ofeimum, 2010). These democratic failings have continued to agitate democratic stakeholders worldwide because statistics show that only around 50% of countries that have embarked on democratic transitions since 1980 have achieved full democracies because of the ever-present tendencies of antidemocratic forces ever willing to stall democracy, promote authoritarian regime and make democratic gains seem unachievable (Bjornlund, 2004). All across the political nooks and crannies of Nigeria we are presented with incidences of violence due to allegations and provable indictments of abuse of power and the use of the military and thugs by politicians to impose themselves or their favoured candidates for elections as well as rigging of elections to subvert the choices of the masses (Kofamata, 2007; Bakare,2013).

Accordingly, there is an ongoing struggle, a more fierce and justifiable battle, to free the Nigerian nation from youth exploitation and the conspiracy of the few elites who have constituted themselves as the political leviathans of the country to undermine the will of the people in electing political leaders. Consequently, the fight has shifted from that of democracy as a form of government versus military rule to the battle of establishing the true meaning and practice of democracy: democracy becoming the government of the people, by the people and for the people ineverysenseoftheanalysis.Someofthemajorthreatstorealizingthisdemocraticidealinthe


Nigerian political context include youth exploitation and the overbearing influence and manipulative political behaviour of political actors, especially demagogues, a special type of elites who have overpowering control over the masses or take undue advantage of the political positions they occupy to undermine democratic practices in favour of their political ambitions.

The notoriety concomitant with democracy or democratic practice in Nigeria is further exacerbated by the seemingly tolerable posture of democratic institutions and the Nigerian people to electoral irregularities and election fraud, where the end, and not the means, appears to be the priority. This is a problem that has led to increasing doubts about the ability of democracy to produce leaders that reflect the will of thepeople.

Although scholars have studied the influence of youth exploitation on democratic processes and outcomes on how democratic progress has been hampered by demagogic practices of political actors (Fund, 2008; Signer, 2009), most of these studies have focused on country-specific democratic experiences without dwelling on the Nigerian democratic context. Thus, to understand the role of youth exploitation in Nigeria‘s democracy, a study on youth exploitation as it relates to the Nigerian democratic situation is pertinent and a response to the recommendation by Fund (2008) that researchers should undertake country-specific studies on youth exploitation and what it represents for democratic opportunities, growth and dividends for the particular country.

Current studies that relate to undemocratic practices in Nigeria‘s democratic politics have centred on the role of godfatherism in undermining democratic values, ethos, principles and public participation in the process and outcome of democracy (Yahaya, 2007; Animasawun, 2013). However, existing studies have seldom dealt with the youth exploitation perpetuated by Nigerian democratic stakeholders, including not just the godfathers, but the ‗godsons‘, the electorates, the officials of the electoral body (Independent National Electoral Commission), and the Nigerian security agencies/agents. A study on youth exploitation in Nigeria‘s democracy could help ascertain the impact of youth exploitation on the practice of democracy in Nigeria‘s Fourth Republic.

From the foregoing, this study which is an investigation of youth exploitation in the Nigerian democratic context (with particular focus on the role of youth exploitation in Nigeria‘s democratic politics; factors that account for the emergence and thriving of youth exploitation in Nigeria; how youth exploitation manifests and the implications of youth exploitation on democracy and good


governance in Nigeria), shows the problematic of democratic practice in Nigeria‘s Fourth Republic.




The following questions were raised in this study.


  1. How does youth exploitation manifest in the democratic politics of Nigeria?
  2. What role does youth exploitation play in Nigeria‘s democracy in the Fourth Republic?
  3. What factors give rise to youth exploitation in the democratic governance of Nigeria?
  4. What are the implications of youth exploitation on democracy and good governance in Nigeria?


The aim of this study is to examine the basis and manifestations of youth exploitation in Nigeria‘s democracy and how the failings of democratic governance in Nigeria has remained a threat to the survival and deepening of democracy in the country. The specific objectives of this study which derive from the research questions are to:

  1. examine the ways that youth exploitation manifest in Nigeria‘s democracy;
  2. investigate the role of youth exploitation in Nigeria‘s democracy in the Fourth Republic;
  3. identify the factors that make youth exploitation thrive in the democratic politics of Nigeria; and
  4. examine the implications of youth exploitation on democracy and good governance in Nigeria.




This study is important because it investigates and provides a sociological analysis of youth exploitation in Nigeria‘s democratic space, and shows how the political leaders in Nigeria‘s democratic dispensation of the Fourth Republic emerge through undemocratic routes.

The study will be of immense benefit to government, democratic institutions and the research community. For the government, it provides the basis for the Nigerian government to develop policies and action plans that will ensure the demilitarization of elections and the need to amend


the constitution to stop the impunity of political or democratic institutions that undermine citizens‘ democratic rights. Also, the study has provided useful information for democratic institutions and stakeholders to tackle election fraud in Nigeria from an informed standpoint. Finally, it has contributed to the body of knowledge, particularly in Political Sociology, on elections and democracy in Nigeria.




This study was carried out to investigate the existence, role and effect of youth exploitation in Nigeria‘s democracy in the Fourth Republic. While it investigated the practices, behaviour, and actions of participants in the Nigerian democratic scene, it focused on Nigeria‘s democratic experience in the Fourth Republic, specifically from 1999 to 2015. Geographically, the study was conducted in six states and the Federal Capital Territory. Each state was randomly selected from each of the six geopolitical zones that make up Nigeria, while the FCT was included as the capital of Nigeria.

The sample population selected for this study was limited to the delegates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the two leading political parties for the 2015 governorship/presidential elections in Nigeria. Only a few stakeholders, mainly those actively involved in Nigeria‘s democratic elections in the Fourth Republic participated in the study as key informants. Besides, the study‘s focus was on the primary elections conducted by the two major political parties (i.e., APC and PDP). Although the study did not involve other political parties and was not conducted in all the thirty-six states of Nigeria, the sample is, however, representative of the population in various other states in Nigeria, and thus can be reasonably generalized. The reason for adopting this route was because, the parties, PDP and APC, are the major political parties with widespread presence in Nigeria, while the other political parties (excepting APGA), are either only existing in names or as political twigs of the two main political parties discussed. Also, the decision to randomly select one state per political zone was informed by financial and time constraints.




The following key terms used in this study have been contextually explained to avoid possible ambiguity.

Youth exploitation: Youth exploitation, as used in this study, refers to behaviour and actions undertaken by stakeholders of democracy which undermine democratic norms, ethos, principles, and the democratic politics of free and fair elections, thereby threatening the growth and sustenance of democracy. This involves manipulative activities that undermine the sanctity, values and ideals of democracy, and includes actions such as fraudulent voter registration, bribery, intimidation, election fraud, violence, and all other irregularities that violate the constitution of Nigeria, the electoral act and other relevant laws. It also implies the use of resources and political might to act unconstitutionally and/or illegally to undermine democratic norms, principles and culture in the quest to either attain power or gain political advantage.

Demagogue: A demagogue is a leader in a political system that uses foul means, including wealth, violence, and intimidation to exploit the fears, emotions, prejudices, ignorance and weaknesses of the electorate with the goal of gaining political power, sustaining power and promotion of political motives for personal or group interests.

Democracy: This is a form of government where eligible citizens choose their leaders in a free and fair election and whereby the actions and inactions of all within its confines are guided by the rule of law.

Democratic governance: Democratic governance, as used in this study, means a system of government where individuals and institutions function according to democratic processes and norms, both internally and in their interaction with other institutions.

Democratic institutions: These are the establishments, such as the courts, independent electoral body, the judiciary, legislature, political parties, et cetera, that underpin and support democracy in order to achieve good governance.

Demo-dictatorship: This refers to a democratic government that operates dictatorially or imperiously with little or no commitment to the ethos and values of democracy.


Election fraud: This refers to irregularities relating to voting that have the potential of tainting an election, and includes phony voter registrations, bribery, intimidation, illegal absentee ballots, ballot box stuffing, forgery and any such acts as spelt out in the ElectoralAct.

Elitism: This is a class of people in society, few in number, who assume superiority over others as a result of their privileged socio-economic status as defined by their wealth, educational level, occupation, specialized training or experience and other distinctive attributes that make them to arrogate the competence to govern to themselves.

Godfatherism: This is a political relationship between a sponsor (godfather) and a legatee (godson or goddaughter) in which the godfather uses his political power and wealth to secure political position for the godson/goddaughter, who upon ascension into power, offers compensations to his/her benefactor (godfather) in kind or in cash. It is the political idea of reciprocal altruism and it operates on the principle of Quid pro quo (“something for something”) or tit for tat.

Liberalism: As implied in this study, liberalism is the notion of the importance of adhering to the values of reason, freedom of choice, open-mindedness, fairness and tolerance in the pursuit of political objectives and goals.

Plutocracy: This is a system of government that is controlled or ruled by the wealth-owning class.

Political economy: Although political economy generally implies the interdisciplinary studies that draws upon economics, political science, law, history, sociology and other disciplines in the social sciences in explaining the crucial role of political factors in determining economic outcomes, the concept as used here refers to the political and economic benefits that necessitate (and justify) the attractiveness and supremacy of youth exploitation in the Nigerian political context. A political economy approach in Sociology is applied to study the effects of people’s involvement in society as members of groups, and how that changes their ability to function effectively in their cultural, social, economic and political contexts.

Populism: This is a political movement that thrives on the strength of mobilized masses aimed at establishing populist political and socio-economic ideals through the direct actions of the masses.



This study was organized into five chapters with each chapter addressing specific areas of study as shown below.

Chapter 1: Introduction: this section of the thesis provides an informative and significant discourse of what necessitated the study and it includes the background to the study, statement of the problem, research questions, objectives of the study, significance of the study and the definition of key terms.

Chapter 2: Literature Review and Theoretical Framework: this section of the thesis situates the study in the context of previous studies and scholarly materials through an exhaustive review of related literature on the subject of democracy, demagogues and other related concepts being studied as available from scholars and researchers, and in research journals, articles, books, magazines, newspapers, seminars, and other papers. Furthermore, the gap in the literature was identified, which the current study attempted to fill. The theoretical framework for this study was also presented in this section. The theories used are symbolic interactionism, elitist theory of democracy and the theory of mass society.

Chapter 3: Methodology: This section presented the description of the methods that was adopted for the study, including the area and population of study, sample and sampling procedures, research instruments and the procedures for collection and analysis ofdata.

Chapter 4: Data Presentation and Analysis: in this section of the thesis, the data and information that emerged as a result of the study were presented and analyzed by the use of tables, and other visual representations to illustrate the data

Chapter 5: Conclusion and Recommendations: this final chapter of the study summarized the major findings of the research, presented the conclusion and made recommendations that could save our democracy from the conundrums of youth exploitation, and thus ensure the survival and thriving of democratic government in the contexts of freedom, liberty, rule of law, human happiness and national prosperity.


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